Divorce (Follow Up)

Honestly I was surprised at the response I got to my previous post about my upcoming divorce, because it wasn’t in my opinion very well written, and although I have many other topics on my mind, the divorce was the only one I could write any thoughts about. I’m in a weird place emotionally, I’m happy and sad. The kind of response I got to the last post was amazing, and it goes to show me that the topic of divorce is still not something that Christians tend to talk to each other honestly and openly about.

Most of my regular blog readers know that I strive to be honest and authentic in all of my writing; however, I’m not able to go into details about all of the reasons that I am getting divorced because there is another person, my ex-husband, involved. He’s a human being with feelings and thoughts of his own, and his version of the divorce story is different to mine. Out of respect to him and because the aim of this blog is to be edifying, this is not going to be a mudslinging match; I’m not going to sit here and write and put on a public forum the reasons why I’m getting a divorce. The thing is, those that know me best know what happened, those that do know what happened all have their own thoughts and feelings.

So while there are legitimate reasons for the divorce, I’m not sure that it’s helpful, edifying or respectful to blast them on here. I have and will continue to talk to some of you privately, at my discretion. I do want to be of help to those who have genuinely come seeking help and asking questions. I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer those because obviously I am not great at marriage, but if I can help I will try.

I do think it’s important that the Christian community continue to discuss divorce because the reality is it affects all of us in some way. Actually the Christian community needs to begin discussing lots of topics, engaging in non-judgmental dialog in order for us to help each other. Instead of shooting our wounded, we need to be there to help. I’m not saying we should be condoning of sin, but it is possible to have a non-judgmental dialog without condoning sin, in fact I’ve had a few therapists that are very good at it. And for me, by the time I want to actually talk about something that I’ve been struggling with, I already know that it’s wrong, and what I need is understanding and guidance.

So, let us help each other by continuing to discuss important topics, and let us do so without demonizing everyone else, even those who have sinned against us. And I need to work on that goal more than anyone.

Advertisements

Divorce

This coming Monday, my divorce will be final. That’s not how this was supposed to work out. I spent seven years with him; it was supposed to be for life. When I got married, I “just knew” that my marriage would never end in divorce, because I was a Christian and the d-word, as the pastor called it, wasn’t a word that should ever be mentioned. In a lot of fundamentalist churches, divorced people are second-rate citizens, and often are not allowed to serve in the church in any way. Pastors will refuse to officiate a wedding for a couple in which one of the spouses is on their second marriage, unless the first marriage ended in death.

They do this because they claim that divorce is a sin, and actually I don’t have a problem with it being labelled as sin. But really the divorce is just the result of a lot of other sins; it’s the symptom of a marriage covenant that is already irreconcilably broken. In the end, I am the spouse that filed for divorce, which in the eyes of many makes it even worse. And really I’m not here to defend my divorce, my marriage is broken and a lot of it is my fault.

I did try, though. I tried so hard to fix what was broken, tried so hard to change and become a different person. In the end it didn’t work out. When I got married I said many stupid things about marriage being forever no matter what and that mine would never end in divorce because that was ungodly. Yes, those foolish words came back to bite me, as many warned me that they might. I’m now receiving the same judgment that I meted out on others, although I did expect it because that’s how the Bible says that these things work. I realize now that many of the things I said and did to others in similar situations were not helpful and sometimes even very harmful. In the future, I’ll have more compassion for those having a rough time in their marriage.

Although it’s not how I planned my life, God has been there, and he’s been watching out for me, often in ways I haven’t recognized until later. This time last year when I was on my knees crying, begging God to give me a way out of my situation, and working towards that goal, God answered that prayer, but the answer was so terrible and horrific that I didn’t recognize that it was his answer until months later. I lost everything valuable to me in one horrible weekend and had to work to get it back. I’ve learned a lot about what is important in life. I’ve walked alongside others as they’ve suffered some of the same things as I have, and I hope that God can use me in the future as a tool to channel his compassion to others.

Structure and Ritual

When I started dabbling with Wicca and Witchcraft, I did so for specific reasons, although I didn’t really understand those reasons at the time, and when I was challenged to figure out what those reasons were, I needed help to do so. But my therapist and I came up with several, and I decided I was going to research these needs and reasons and find ways to meet those needs within Christianity. We came up with eight different reasons, but right now I’m focusing on one of them: the aspect of ritual and structure. Some of the Wiccan rituals, such as circle casting for example, are very fascinating and exciting to me; I also like the structure of them. I never would have thought that I was looking for ritual and structure, particularly considering how that worked out for me in fundamentalism and how I have tried to escape that.

Maybe it’s not structure that I’m against, but rather rules that make no sense and that are almost impossible to keep anyway. Anyway, as I was thinking about things I might could do within Christianity to feed my need for ritual and structure, I thought about something that I was drawn to and going to participate in before I started messing with the Witchcraft, and that was study the lectionary. The lectionary is something that is used by a lot of different Christian churches, and of the churches that use it, they all read and study the same Scriptures every week.

My friend Louis has written a great piece giving background on the lectionary and reasonswhy it should be used, and he said it so much better than I could have so I am just going to refer you to his article. I like that the lectionary is structured around the Christian year and that certain seasons have certain colors etc, and I’m hoping that will keep at bay my need for ritual. As I’ve started digging in to the lectionary and following along with what some others have written about the readings, I’ve realized how much I like it.

So with that said, I’m going to be blogging through the lectionary, I know that Rachel Held Evans is blogging through it also and she has a great piece up this week for the coming Sunday. Other good sources for meditations on the Revised Common Lectionary (which is what I will be using here) are the “Keeping Holy Time” books edited by Douglas E. Wingeier and Sojourners magazine’s feature called “Living the Word” where they also discuss each week’s readings. I am hoping that this study will be profitable not only for me but maybe for others who read here. It’s a new journey for me and I already like what I have studied so far. I need to keep my mind engaged, I tend to see God in the intellectual but also the spiritual, so I’m hoping this is a good fit for me. 

Mirror, mirror

Mirror mirror, on the wall, who is the biggest hypocrite of them all? Oh, that’s right, that would be me. My spiritual life seems to go in cycles of normalcy and then frustration and then epiphanies. The last two months have been the frustration and this weekend was the epiphany.  Thanks to some friends, I had some really intimate moments with God this weekend, and it was just what I needed. I had veered off the path in a pretty big way, although it’s evident with the battle inside of me that I was trying hard to stay on track. I was frustrated with Christianity, frustrated with God, frustrated with life, frustrated with everyone around me, even frustrated with myself.

So I began to heed the alluring call of Wicca and Witchcraft. I did my research, I talked to people I knew who were Pagan, Wiccans or Witches. I felt like I could incorporate God and Christianity into these religions and blend them all together. I was becoming more and more comfortable in using Pagan practices within the context of Christianity, and as the allure got stronger, I kept exploring. I cut myself off from a lot of friends, not really on purpose, but I figured if I talked to them they might figure out something was up and by this time I was aware that most of them would not like it and honestly I was afraid they’d ditch me, just like all the people did when I left fundamentalism.

At first this all seemed to fit really well, but I became increasingly uncomfortable with what I was getting involved in, but I couldn’t figure out why. I was attracted to it in the first place because I felt like Pagans took more responsibility for themselves and their actions, and they focused on themselves and what they could fix. The main premise of Wicca is really that you can do anything you like, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone including yourself, and I was really drawn to that. After all, I’ve been through some really hurtful and confusing circumstances these last six months, things that I have not been able to make sense of.

With the things I have been through it has felt like most Christians aren’t even interested in living the way Jesus encouraged us to live, it seems like they just want power and prestige, and that they think they are perfect. I’m saying this is what it has felt like and seemed like, but this perception is probably not reality. I’ve accused the people of God of being mean, ugly, fake, and hypocritical among other things. I’ve been very lonely these last few months, felt like I was going it alone. But this weekend, I saw that I’m just as hypocritical and fake and mean and ugly as those I’ve accused of being the same.

I made an ugly face at the Walmart greeter because he said something really stupid to me and I was annoyed, even though I know he’s disabled. I have yelled at my children even though I’m trying to use positive parenting techniques. I’ve been rude to people who were trying to help me or whose company had caused a problem for me and I was being ugly to them. I’ve ignored people I probably should have talked to. I’ve focused on all the hurts and wrongs that have been committed against me, accusing others of hypocrisy, when the biggest hypocrite is me.

Quest for Faith – Part 5

So I have a confession. I’ve been seriously struggling with my faith, with Christianity, with what I believe. There are a lot of people, even Christian people, who have been very, very hurtful towards me with all the things I have been going through with my children, in fact attacks seem even worse coming from Christian people sometimes. I’ve been struggling with that as well as the way Christianity is practiced in America, having had the experience of growing up in a different culture where being a Christian doesn’t equal power and privilege and social conservatism. In fact I grew up in a culture where being a Christian wasn’t popular like it is in America.

I’ve been so disillusioned and frustrated that I’ve been exploring other religions, things that I have felt drawn to all my life and struggling against because I thought they were wrong. I’ve been exploring aspects of Paganism/Wicca/Witchcraft, because of some previous experiences. I’ve been deeply researching and keeping a journal and all of my experiences and thoughts. At first I thought it was all fitting like a glove, but I’m really not sure about that right now. I wasn’t going to ditch Jesus, I was looking to still worship God within the context of Paganism. Please understand that, while I was wanting to reject cultural Christianity, I didn’t want to reject Jesus.

I’m extremely frustrated with the political conservatism that is somehow connected with Christianity in the US. It seems so totally against what Jesus taught that it seems that it’s actually going against what he taught in so many places. And yet it’s so deeply entrenched in culture here that people don’t even realize it. While conservatives play the persecution of Christianity card, everyone else realizes that Christians aren’t persecuted in this country: not even close, they hold positions and power and privilege simply because of their Christian faith. This has been disappointing and frustrating when I have realized that people just don’t understand it.

And yet, the problem may not be everyone else and what I see as incompatible ideas. I claim that everyone else is hypocritical even though they are living what they genuinely believe, even if I believe that their expression of Christianity is wrong. But the problem with that is that even if I am right (which I may or may not be), is that I’m the biggest hypocrite I know. I’m the one that claims to be a pacifist (which I am) and yet yells at people when I’m frustrated. I claim to be against violence (and I am) and yet I say things violently when I’m having issues with my temper. So if I want to reject Christianity based on the behavior of other people, maybe I should reject it based on my own behavior.

This isn’t to say that all that stuff is excusable, it’s not. But like I’ve been working on in counselling, the only person I can change is myself, and if I focus on everyone else and what they are doing and how they hurt me, I’ll always be feeling bad and cynical. But if I focus on what I can do about how I’m feeling, well, that’s a whole lot better, and I can change that. 

Here and Now

During the course of working in earnest on The Girl With the Grace Tattoo, I’ve struggled with whether I should even finish writing it, not because I don’t want to, but because lately my beliefs have changed some more and I sometimes wonder if I even know what I am talking about. But this past week or so as I have really thought about it, it has occurred to me that this is a book about the evolution of my faith and spirituality, and for my beliefs to evolve more during the writing of the book is not a bad thing. Having my beliefs evolve over time is a good and healthy thing, and there would probably be more wrong with this whole picture if my beliefs hadn’t been challenged and changed during this process.

After all, I tend to process things by reading and writing about them, which means that I rocked essays in college but didn’t do so well on exams. So in doing research for my book where I am doing a lot of reading and a lot of writing it’s natural that I would grow and change during the journey. Leaving fundamentalism was a life changing and life saving event. My world came crashing down around me as my beliefs crumbled, and I had to re-evaluate everything that I believe in. Rather than the conclusion of the journey, it was just the beginning. All good stories contain conflict, and seven months ago the biggest conflict and most horrible events of my life to date (and I’m not in a hurry for anything worse to happen) shattered everything.

Right now I’m not sure I even want to pursue a Christian publishing option if I choose to attempt getting the book traditionally published, mostly because I don’t want my book associated with all the Christian stuff out there because I don’t believe it’s a true representation of Christianity. American cultural Christianity is frustrating to me and has almost turned me completely away from Christianity more than once. It’s a topic that I write about in my book, along with the opposite idea of the kingdom of God and what that is supposed to look like and how Jesus really was a revolutionary who came change lives and bring about a new kingdom and a new way of doing things. It’s supposed to be to where going to heaven when we die is more of an added benefit rather than the point. If we see going to heaven as the point, then we’ve totally missed the point. Sadly a lot of modern Christianity seems to be about getting fire insurance (not going to hell) and then the rest of the time on earth is engaged in fighting culture wars. I honestly don’t think that is what Jesus had in mind.

These are some of the thoughts that I have been processing in the writing of this book, it seems that Christianity has become shallow when if it’s a life thing it needs to mean so much more than heaven. It needs to be transformative here on earth, in the here and now.